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Opinion: Castle’s RNeSU tenure positive; Collins a good choice

Editor’s note: The following statement was submitted on behalf of the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union Board by RNeSU Chairperson Carol Brigham.
The board members of Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union would like to acknowledge the invaluable contributions and leadership shared by John Castle during his five-year tenure as superintendent. John’s commitment to our communities and children over the course of the past five years demonstrates his passion for the education profession and his belief that all children can learn; that each student is valuable and precious and that the job of the adults is to assist our children in achieving academic and personal success.
John’s leadership has shown us that it is not about bowing to the status quo but rather to challenge all of us to do better, oftentimes with fewer resources but always with the focus on our students. John has supported and cultivated a collaborative approach to working with the administration and the boards to navigate difficult budget processes during a period of declining enrollment for many schools and a general fiscal austerity in both the state and our communities.
Part of John’s legacy is that he has sought out, hired and nurtured individuals who have extended the capacity of RNeSU and he has advanced a positive culture within our school community. It is a culture of respect and joint aspirations for improving outcomes and enhancing each individual’s professional practice.
That has been John’s “compact” with us and his upcoming departure has provided our community with a challenge to continue the path of promoting Character, Competence, Creativity and Community within our supervisory union. With that in mind, the Executive Committee developed a timeline for the search process and created a profile describing the ideal person we were looking for to be our next superintendent, which included promoting our RNeSU Compact. The Search Committee, made up of 12 board members, was complemented with an additional Interview Committee comprised of three building administrators, two central office administrators, three teachers, two support staff, one board member and one student. The committee’s five-member screening team reviewed each application and began the process of checking references early in April.
Out of 22 applications, four individuals were identified for interviews with the Search Committee team. We used the superintendent profile to develop questions to ask the candidates. The committee members filled out individual scoring sheets for our personal use and used an anonymous choice selection to decide on the two applicants who best demonstrated the character, experience, and educational philosophy which fit best with RNeSU. Unfortunately one of those candidates decided to withdraw from consideration shortly before the second interview.
The committee proceeded in its deliberations by doing a site visit, holding a community forum, interviewing the remaining candidate, checking many references, and has done so in as transparent a manner as possible when engaging in a personnel decision such as this. The committee has a great deal for which to be proud and we thank them for their time and effort. 
The RNeSU Board unanimously approved the hiring of Jeanne Collins as superintendent of the supervisory union on a one-year contract. Collins is a dedicated veteran educational leader, with nine years as a superintendent in Burlington, and 11 years as a director of special education in Burlington and Washington West Supervisory Union. Collins, named Superintendent of the Year in 2011, impressed the board with her comprehensive knowledge of educational issues and passion for successful outcomes for all students.
The board initially had concerns, as did some in the community, about the controversy that surrounded Ms. Collins’ recent tenure in Burlington. In response to these concerns, the interview process was “over-the-top” thorough, and included contact with no less than 60 people in reference to Ms. Collins. The responses received were overwhelmingly positive and offered an insight into a political situation in Burlington which, in the opinion of many, has scapegoated Ms. Collins for problems which were largely not her fault and which she was on track to remedy. The RNeSU full board feels we are gaining a strong, positive leader in and that we can move forward with complete confidence in Ms. Collins and in the leadership team already in place in our supervisory union.
Ms. Collins will begin her position on July 1. We welcome her and look forward to her contributions and leadership in advancing our innovative model of education.
Carol Brigham
RNeSU Chairperson
Whiting School Board
Whiting

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